TOLEDO, Ohio – The Tulsa Oilers and Toledo Walleye battled Monday night to extend the Western Conference Final to a game seven, or end it altogether. With an odd format putting game six of the series back in Toledo, the Walleye had the chance to clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup Final with a win on home ice. However, just like in overtime of their game four win, the Oilers were lifted to victory on the back of a Charlie Sampair game-winning goal.
Tulsa took game six by a score of 4-2, tying the conference final at three games apiece and pushing the series to a climactic game seven. The Oilers were anchored with a solid showing in net by backup goaltender Ian Keserich. Keserich’s 29 saves on 31 shots was good enough for a .935 save percentage and, ultimately, his first playoff victory since April 6, 2013 (an 8-2 win for the Elmira Jackals over the Florida Everblades).
The ECHL’s lone team from Oklahoma took advantage of the frenetic pace both squads began the game with, as an initial Mike McKee shot was redirected into the Toledo net by forward Scott Henegar to put the Oilers up 1-0 at 4:07 of the first period. Just over a minute and a half later, Tulsa captain Adam Pleskach forced a turnover deep in Toledo’s zone, feeding a wide open Stephen Perfetto for yet another tally at 5:45 of the first. Perfetto’s eighth goal of the postseason gave him his 25th point of the playoffs, good for first place in postseason scoring for the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
The roles quickly became reverse in the second stanza, as Toledo became the team to score a couple tallies early on in the period. Walleye power forward Ben Storm netted his first goal of the postseason just 50 seconds into the second segment, backhanding a rebound off of an original Kevin Tansey shot in front. A little more than a minute later, Toledo defenseman Ryan Obuchowski wired a shot through traffic and past a frozen Keserich at 1:57 of period two to even things up at two goals a side.
A key moment bears noting before the end of the second: Toledo almost took the lead late in the period (around the 18:00 mark) after a Bryan Moore shot from the left wing was lifted over the right leg pad of Keserich, hitting the post before skirting parallel to the goal line and through the Tulsa crease. A diving Chris Crane could not capitalize on the loose puck, either, as both teams stayed knotted at 2-2 after two.
The Walleye peppered Keserich with shots in the third period, as the 33-year-old veteran netminder stopped all 15 attempts fired his way in the final regulation frame. The only score in the third came off the stick of Sampair, who tipped in an Erik Drapluk slapshot from the blue line for the go-ahead goal at 13:13 of period number three. Oilers forward Alex Dostie tallied the empty-netter for Tulsa’s fourth and final goal at 19:32, tying himself for first in postseason goals (14) with the score.
Game seven of the Western Conference Final shifts back to the BOK Center in Tulsa, OK on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:05pm CT. Be sure to follow along on Twitter, as @SinBinOilers will be covering all the action LIVE, bearing witness as a conference champion is crowned and an opponent decided upon for the Newfoundland Growlers in the Kelly Cup Final!